Many of us struggle with low discipline, depleted willpower, and procrastination.
There’s plenty of good – and not-so-good- advice on the subject, but here’s my take on things.
I hope it’ll help some of you to navigate the rapids.
It’s super important to understand why things are the way they are.
It’s easy to blame ourselves, but we must realize that we live in unprecedented times: we moved from scarcity to overwhelming abundance in a short time (at least from our brain development perspective).
We usually have abundant food and distractions; we never have to feel bored – and our ‚primitive’ brain takes advantage of it.
It’s much easier to resist something that isn’t around you than when it is (ever heard of the Marshmallow test?).
We are swimming in dopamine inducing world.
The problem with dopamine?
It makes you want more of whatever you enjoy, and it’s insatiable. And if you want to stop? The pleasure is tipped to the side of pain. It’s tough to stop doing something that gives you pleasure and start something hard.
So, what can you do?
Start well. Or, realistically speaking, try to delay starting the dopamine-inducing activity (surfing the web, playing games, eating junk food, watching tv).
We’ve become vulnerable to compulsive overconsumption.
PROTECT YOUR MORNINGS AT ALL COSTS.
You don’t need to join the 5 am club to succeed in life (although that may help some of us), but if you manage to avoid high-dopamine activities not related to your goals early on – great!
You have much better odds of success for a couple of reasons:
- It’s not easy, BUT easier to do pleasant things AFTER you’ve done some hard things than the other way around.
- If you start by avoiding hards stuff – even for a little bit – it’s a slippery slope; even the most disciplined types fail to bounce back
- We have more willpower in the first hours of the day. Maybe you don’t have much of it, but more than later.
WHAT TO DO?
Your morning begins the night before.
It’s easier to start well when you’ve had enough sleep, removed temptations (your phone/ junk food, etc.), and know precisely what you want to accomplish – start small by picking ONE THING.
CREATE BEFORE YOU CONSUME
By ‚create,’ I mean the necessary hard stuff; eat that frog (you can make it more palatable with some spices and rewards).
SHAPE YOUR ENVIRONMENT.
Relying on willpower is usually counterproductive.
REMOVE DISTRACTIONS BEFORE YOU START.
This should be your default mode.
- Block sites/ apps – out of sight, out of mind
- Don’t get high on sugar – it’ll mess up your focus
If you have problems sticking to it, you need to take more radical steps:
Get support and accountability for as long as you need it to break the vicious cycle.
- join a study group
- get into virtual co-working
- try to work/study in a place where you can see other people doing the same – a library, a co-working space
What you repeat often becomes a habit.
Think of it as a muscle – it becomes stronger when you use it.
The more you use your avoidance mechanism, the stronger it becomes (your default is to procrastinate); the more you do the hard stuff, the easier it becomes.
WHAT IF YOU SLIPPED?
There are generally two routes you can take if you end up on the slippery slope:
- You go into the WHAT THE HELL EFFECT – “today goes to waste, but I’ll try again tomorrow.”
- Or NO MORE ZERO DAYS, when you try to salvage whatever you can of the otherwise wasted morning/day/decade
Show yourself some compassion, don’t blame yourself, just get back to work.
You can only fail if you stop trying!
There are powerful forces at play, after all!